Thursday, June 13, 2019

Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman (2018) directed by James Wan

Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is born the son of a lighthouse keeper and a queen...the Queen of Atlantis! She washes up on the shore of the lighthouse one day and the keeper keeps her. They are truly happy and have a wonderful son but then the troops from Atlantis find her. She offers to return to Atlantis, thus saving her husband and child from the wrath of the sea. Arthur is trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), the main advisor to the royal family, in his Atlantean abilities (swimming fast, breathing and talking underwater, and fighting with a trident). Promises of reuniting son and mother are never fulfilled, leaving Arthur a bit bitter.

He still has the heart of a hero and does good deeds along the coast. He rescues a submarine from pirates. The sub still goes down but the Russian crew is saved. Unbeknownst to Aquaman, the sub is used by his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to solidify a deal to reunite the underwater kingdoms. Orm's plan is to make war on the surface dwellers who are a bunch of harpooning fish-eaters polluters. Mera (Amber Heard) is princess of one of the other kingdoms and wants Arthur to reclaim the throne to avoid the war. Also, she is not interested in marrying Orm, even for political convenience. Arthur is uninterested in the throne, especially since he knows his mom was killed by the Atlanteans when they found out about him. Also, he has pretty much no leadership skills whatsoever.

The plot of family members fighting over a throne, with one who wants to use the kingdom's technology to make war on the rest of the world, was much better executed in Black Panther. Still, the plot isn't poorly done here. The film also has a side story dealing with revenge, because the pirate's son wants to kill Aquaman because Arthur let the pirate leader die. That story is nicely tied into Aquaman's worthiness to be king, since he basically is a fun-loving, fist-fighting, ne'er-do-well who really isn't qualified for any public office, let alone the top office. He let the pirate leader die out of pettiness, not valor. Arthur slowly acquires a bit more responsibility and perspective throughout the film, though he is still not convincingly regal by the end of the movie. So the movie has a lot of mediocre bits.

On the other hand, the world-building is amazing and splendid to look at. The visuals are imaginative and the various kingdoms do look like individual places with their own histories. The various sea creatures (both real and fictional) used as combatants or steeds were fun to see. The world was rich and cinematic. A few scenes looked like they were meant to be seen in 3D, which is a pet peeve of mine and detracted a bit from the movie. One or two fight scenes also looked too CGI, as if they were cut scenes from a video game made ten years ago. Even my son complained about that. Those scenes weren't too often so they weren't too bothersome. Visually, the movie is very impressive.

Overall, Aquaman is a fun movie, the sort of summer superhero movie that's entertaining but not great.

Slightly recommended.

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